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French Version

Lebanon tourism stable despite security void

Organizers of tourist fairs in Lebanon are upbeat about the future despite the fact that the number of visitors to the country has declined by more than 30 percent this year.

This is the impression Raouf Abou Zaki, gives as he announces that a huge tourism exhibition, the International Arab World Tourism and Travel Exhibition (AWTTE) 2005, will start on September 14.

Abou Zaki, head of the Iktissad Wal Aamal magazine organizing the event, said tourism will continue to be one of the driving forces behind the Lebanese economy.

In light of the gloomy state prevailing in the Middle East, from political turmoil in Lebanon, and destabilizing attacks in Egypt, Abou Zaki pointed out that the tourism sector is nonetheless striving to keep its head above water

The forum will group 14 countries including Lebanon from the Middle East, North Africa and Asia on the tourism sector will be held in Beirut from September 29 to October 2.

"We expect the forum to grow by 20 percent for 2005 despite the difficult situation prevailing in the country" said Abou Zaki.

"AWTTE 2005 will be a great opportunity to market and discuss the chances of cooperation between all the agents working in the industry of tourism, as ministers, other officials and numerous companies and travel organizations will get a chance to meet," he added.

Following the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri on February 14, the tourism sector showed for the first seven months the same amount of activity as was witnessed in 2003, although the month of August could well see some increase, said Abou Zaki. "We can say that Lebanon is growing immune to the security situation thanks to its value-added tourism sector and to the love Arabs and especially Gulf brothers vow to our country" said Abou Zaki.

That is not a particularly good thing, says the head of the Hotel Associations in Lebanon Pierre Achkar, considering the fact that the only regions witnessing significant activity are Bhamdoun, Aley and their immediate surroundings.

"I don't think any decent and mature person working in the tourism sector would see in Bhamdoun and Aley a success story of how tourism should grow in a given country" said Achkar, hinting at the kind of services offered to Gulf nationals in hotels of those areas.

While other regions have no comprehensive development planning, Bhamdoun and Aley are significantly selling land to Gulf nationals "who do not belong to the category of people I would like to depend on to develop the tourism sector, especially when I know that so many Arabs and other Gulf nationals who come to Lebanon, would never go to Bhamdoun or Aley," he says.

Beirut 05-09-2005
Bechir Saade
The Daily Star

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